Beef Pho Noodle Soup Recipe (Pho Bo)
This Vietnamese style beef noodle soup is comforting fresh, and a deeply flavorful soup. There are few things better for the soul than a tangle of rice noodles in a rich broth; full of the warm spices. This Pho Bo soup is more like a ‘faux’ Bo soup that I love to make especially when I have leftover beef tenderloin or steak. It’s far from the authentic Vietnamese classic soup made from a very long-simmered spiced beef bone broth poured over cooked rice noodles and thinly sliced raw or cooked beef (the heat of the broth cooks the raw beef). This very quick homemade version calls for doctoring up store-bought broth with the same spices, and using thinly sliced leftover steak or raw steak. The recipe works well with either. This “quick” pho doesn’t have quite the same depth of flavour, but when a pho craving hits on a busy weeknight and we just need a bowl of tasty noodles, it definitely hits the spot! The soup is garnished with lots of bright, fresh ingredients, like herbs, scallions, shallots and lime.
What is Pho Bo (Phở Bò)
“Phở” means rice noodles and “bò” means beef. A bowl of beef phở (pronounced “fuh“) consists of soft slippery noodles in a hearty, beefy yet fragrant broth and beef slices of your choice. In traditional Vietnamese cooking, pho broth is typically simmered for many hours in order to create that rich, layered, cozy blend of flavors that we all know and love. There are actually different versions of this soup depending on the region. In Vietnam, pho bo is well-loved as a breakfast but also eaten by many as a quick lunch or late night supper. The beef itself is served many different ways from raw to seared or well done depending on preference. And this cozy, fresh, and deeply flavorful soup has a way of hitting the spot every single time. It will always be one of my favorite soups to order out. For a more traditional and authentic recipe I recommend checking out Serious Eats and for more information and history on this wonderful soup.
Ingredients in this Vietnamese pho beef soup:
- 3 whole star anise
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- Coriander 1 teaspoon seed
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
For the Broth:
- Onion, Garlic & Ginger - Which we will briefly broiled until charred, in order to add that classic smoky flavor to the broth.
- Lemon grass (optional - but I love to add it in to mine)
- Broth - beef and chicken combined or just beef for a richer flavour (homemade or store bought)
- Fish Sauce
- Rice Noodles - I like to use flat
- Beef - leftover rare or medium-rare steak such as beef tenderloin very thinly sliced and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1-⅓ cups) or raw beef strip loin or fillet, sliced or shaved thin
Toppings or for serving (optional):
- Bean sprouts
- Lime wedges
- Chile paste, or thinly sliced fresh hot chiles
How to make this Vietnamese pho beef soup:
Making this Vietnamese pho soup (faux soup) at home is not hard, all you need is a straightforward recipe, a few tips, and a stockpot. This homemade version is quite simplified and not as authentic but is still absolutely delicious!
- BROIL/CHAR the onion, garlic and ginger this will add so much flavour to the broth
- TOAST the spices - The heat draws out the oils from the spices, emphasizing and emboldening the flavor of the spices and the broth
- SIMMER - add the charred onion, garlic and ginger to the toasted spices then the broth and lemon grass and simmer for 30 min - stir in fish sauce
- PREP NOODLES - according to package directions and divided into serving bowls
- SLICE BEEF - very thinly and place over noodles - check out tips below for slicing the beef.
- POUR broth over noodles and beef and serve with all the extra toppings and garnishes
Pho Bo Make ahead instructions:
- Broth: Although soup doesn’t take too long to make as it is a very simplified version, the broth can be made ahead and once cool can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3-4 months. Reheat broth stovetop right before you need to pour it over the noodles and beef.
- Noodles: Rice noodles are always best served fresh, but if you have some leftover and need to save them, or you want to make them ahead of time, it’s best to keep them in the fridge. Tossing the rice noodles in oil will prevent them from becoming too sticky and clumping together during storage. Rice noodles that have already been soaked or cooked should be kept in a shallow airtight container, or a resealable plastic food bag, in the fridge. The noodles will keep for 3-4 days.
Pho Bo Tips:
- Slicing the beef thin: Freeze the beef for 15 minutes. Place the beef on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 minutes. The edges of the beef should feel firm to the touch, but the beef should not be frozen through. This will make it easier to slice the beef thinly.
- Slice the beef into thin slices. Remove the beef from the freezer and immediately use your sharpest knife to slice the beef across the grain into very thin slices no thicker than ¼-inch. (Alternately, you can ask the butcher to thinly slice your steak for you, or add pre-cooked steak to your soup.) Once sliced, keep the beef covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. I used leftover medium cooked beef tenderloin that I had frozen and let thaw in the fridge for a little bit and it was easy to get nice and thin slices out of it.
- Don’t boil the noodles in the broth - prepare them separately so they don’t soak up too much of the liquid and get gummy.
- Use pre-cooked steak: If you prefer not to cook the steak in the individual serving bowls, feel free to instead stir the steak directly into the stockpot of simmering broth to ensure that it is fully cooked. Then ladle the broth and beef together into the individual serving bowls.
More soup recipes you will love:
- 3 whole star anise
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
For the broth
- 1 yellow onion cleaned and halved (peeled or Unpeeled)
- 3 cloves of garlic cleaned and halved (peeled or unpeeled)
- Ginger 1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger (1 to 1-½ inches thick), unpeeled and sliced in half
- 1 lemongrass stalk, smashed with side of a knife
- 2-½ cups chicken broth (or you could do all beef broth for a richer broth)
- 2-½ cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 8 oz. ⅛ to ¼-inch wide rice noodles
- 8 oz. leftover rare or medium-rare steak such as beef tenderloin very thinly sliced and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1-⅓ cups) or raw beef strip loin or fillet, sliced or shaved thin
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallion greens
- ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
- 1 medium shallot, sliced into thin rings
- 1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
- 1 lime, cut into eight wedges
- Chile paste, such as sambal oelek, or thinly sliced fresh hot chiles (optional)
- Broil onions: arrange the ginger, garlic, and onions cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet and broil on high until the aromatics are deeply charred in spots, 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Toast spices: In a dry 3-qt. or larger saucepan over medium heat, combine the star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, and fennel seeds. Toast the spices, shaking the pan occasionally, until quite fragrant, 1 to 2 min.
- Make broth: Add the onions, garlic, ginger and the lemon grass to pot with the spices. Then add the broths and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low or low, cover, and simmer gently for 30 min. Stir in fish sauce. Taste the broth to see that the spice flavors have been extracted, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Strain the aromatics from the broth, return to a sauce pot, and reserve for assembly.
- Cook noodles: Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain the noodles and portion them into four large soup bowls.
- Assembly: Portion the steak, scallions, cilantro, basil, and shallot into the four bowls, scattering them over the noodles. Divide the broth among the four bowls, pouring it over the noodles and other ingredients.
- Top with the bean sprouts. Serve with the lime wedges and chile paste or chiles on the side
- Make-ahead: The broth can be prepared, cooled, and refrigerated for 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. The raw beef if using can be sliced and kept refrigerated for several hours (no longer than 24 hours). The noodles can be prepared, tossed with a bit of neutral-tasting oil, and kept refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving. The toppings can also be prepped up to 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated until serving.
- Storing leftovers: Leftover noodles stored in broth will ultimately absorb all the broth and become gummy. If you have leftovers, store the noodles, broth, beef, and toppings in separate containers. When reheating, assemble the noodles, beef, and broth in a bowl and microwave; top with garnishes before serving.